Deng Yujiao, the hotel waitress whose case became a cause celebre in China, was released today. The Badong County People’s Court had found her guilty of causing “injury with intent” because she fatally stabbed one local Communist official and injured another.
Ms. Deng explained that she used a fruit knife in self-defense when the men attempted to sexually assault her. The original police report said that the men asked for “special services,” which is popular euphemism for sex. Later reports claimed that the men only asked for “bathing service,” which is a legitimate service offered at hotels like the one Deng worked at.
In any case, Ms. Deng repeatedly told the men that she was a waitress and did not work in the bathhouse section of the hotel. The official report omits the fact that Deng Guida, the decedent, is accused of beating the victim after being refused sex, calling her a prostitute and threatening to kill her. Finally, the most recent report, released a few days before the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, downplayed Deng Yujiao’s “guilt” and seemed calibrated to appease the growing numbers of Chinese clamoring for justice.
Even when releasing Ms. Deng, the court claimed that her self-defense was “excessive.” That claim seems incorrect. Article 20, Clause 3 of the Chinese Criminal Law states:
Where a defence is conducted to an immediate violent crime of committing physical assault, committing homicide, robbery, rape, kidnapping, and other crimes seriously endangering the security of a person, and it causes bodily injury or death to the unlawful infringer, such an act shall not be defence that exceeds the limits of necessity, and criminal responsibility shall not be borne for such an act.
Nevertheless, the court pointed to two grounds in favor of releasing her. First, she had reported the incident to the police. Second, she supposedly had diminished responsibility because she is manic-depressive. Her former lawyers, however, dispute the manic-depressive assertion. Some commentators believe the mental health allegation, initially made at the outset of the investigation, was originally fabricated to discredit her; later, it became a handy tool to have her released without the government needing to openly account for the Communist Party officials’ crimes.
Deng Yujiao’s release is very good news; but it is less a victory for the rule of law–she was found guilty after all–and more a political response to the widespread public support she received and an attempt to head off further public discussion of violent abuses by Communists Party officials.
Thanks to Epoch Times, a newspaper which is outlawed in China, but which is distributed in the U.S. and other nations, and which reports frequently on human rights abuses in China. Also thanks to Independence Institute summer associate Dave Heal, who researched this story and co-wrote this post.